James J. Peters VA Medical Center
Homeless No More
Army Veteran leaves shelters behind and makes his home a sweet place to be.
Army Veteran Frederick Phillip Luck, 74, has never married. "I didn't want to be like my father. He died an alcoholic," says Luck. He said that he and two younger sisters went to "orphan homes" after his mother died and his father started drinking more heavily. But, he recalls, he did not escape a drinker's life.
After dropping out of high school, Luck joined the army serving two separate tours. "My name is Luck and I was lucky to be born at the right time. I served my country, anything could have happened, but it didn't," he says about serving in peace time in France and Germany.
After discharge from the service, Luck held a variety of jobs. He joined AA 20 years ago and stayed off the bottle. He found his stride working for a messenger service that turned into 15 years of steady employment at a national TV station's messaging department. After retiring two years ago, Luck fell into hard times and became homeless.
Eventually, he entered the shelter system where he survived, but longed for a place that was his own.
"In the shelters, you have long lines for the showers, to get something to eat," he says.
After a year, he applied for housing under the Veteran's Administration HUD/VASH program. HUD/VASH is a collaboration between the VA and Housing Urban Development to provide intensive case management to homeless Veterans in need of long term support while living independently in subsidized apartments. Joyful that he met HUD/VASH qualifications last year, Luck now enjoys independent living in a light, comfortable Section 8 apartment in Far Rockaway.
Luck is grateful to his then-VA Social Worker, Michal Cohen, LCSW, who worked with him while she was a HUD/VASH intensive case manager, before taking a post at another VA. A former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Madagascar and St. Lucia, Cohen is endlessly determined to help her VA patients. She convinced Luck to join a gym in his building and encouraged him to become more social as well.
"He always has a well stocked fridge," Cohen recalled. Luck appreciates everything about having a home and a place to cook his own meals.
"I'm not a good cook and being a borderline diabetic, I can't eat a lot, but I make homemade spaghetti sauce, and big pots of lamb, stew, beef stew and chicken stew."
Luck gave up smoking after being diagnosed with emphysema at the VA's Manhattan Campus almost three years ago and comes to VA for healthcare. "I come for diabetes, eyesight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis. I've got them all," says Luck, with a smile, not taking a minute of his good fortune for granted.
To learn more about HUD VASH and VA's services to help homeless Veterans, all are welcome to a free event, Homeless Outreach and Information Day, to be held at Veterans Memorial Hall, 346 Broadway, 8th floor, Manhattan, on Friday, Oct. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will feature an information fair and educational breakout sessions on services provided by federal, state, city and private organizations who partner with VA to provide services to Veterans who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless. In addition, a special panel discussion will feature homeless and formerly homeless Veterans who will offer their perspectives on their experiences.